I always thought goldfish were stupid pets. They died too easily and they didn’t really do anything to endear themselves to you. They just seemed altogether pointless creatures.
Like this fella here.
That was before Flipper came into my life.
Flipper and I met during the summer of my freshman year of college. I was back in Issaquah working at Petsmart, trying to refill the bank account before heading back to school in late August.
So one day, I was standing at the cash register as usual when a customer ran up to me, frantic and dragging a crying young daughter.
You see, we sold feeder goldfish in these huge tanks with hundreds and hundreds of fishies in them, right along the bottom row of the aquarium section. And one of the doomed little fishies had made a flying leap out of the tank and onto the floor. The customer and her young daughter were positively distraught about the dying goldfish. (I guess they didn't realize that the vast majority of the fish in this tank would be fed to bigger, meaner fish).
Poor little guy.
We sprang into action. I think everyone working that day got involved in the fish rescue mission. We got him into water and gave him some sort of fishy-tranquilizer crap that probably retails for $12 a bottle. He was stashed behind the podium in the aquarium section and promptly named “Flipper” after his suicidal act. The customer and her daughter, satisfied that the crisis was resolved, paid for their dog food and went on their way.
Meanwhile, we employees had to figure out what to do with him.
“Someone should take him home,” said I.
“He won’t survive the night,” the fish department employee responded knowingly. “That was all way too stressful for a goldfish.”
“So what, you want to just leave him behind the podium to die??” I asked.
“Pretty much. The only reason I even put him in this bag is because that customer was watching.”
I refused to accept that answer. Flipper had already attempted suicide once. He needed to be shown some love. He needed to know that life was worth living! So I decided to adopt him and make him my first-ever pet fish.
The fish department employee helped me pick out everything I would need to keep Flipper happy. Luckily, we were both on the same page that Flipper deserved nothing but the best.
At the end of my shift, I took little Flipper out to my car. Since I didn’t want to shake him up, I held his bag in my hand for the entire drive home.
I got home and set up his tank, reminding myself that he might die within a few hours. I decided that if that happened, I would just get a new fish and never look back.
But the next morning, Flipper was still alive.
And the morning after that, too.
Pretty soon, it was time to clean his tank, as he’d already been alive long enough to stank that sucker right up. I tried catching him with the little net I had bought, but it was a lot harder than I thought it would be. Flipper was a quick little bugger, and that net did not maneuver well in the little bowl. So I came up with a better idea.
I caught Flipper with my bare hands to move him to his bowl-cleaning cup, thereby bonding us together for life. Week after week I would reach into his bowl and pull him out, feeling him flop inside my hands. Everyone said this was also too stressful and would probably kill him, but little Flipper just kept on trucking.
At one point, he got some weird fish disease called ick, so I went and bought him some ick medicine. Once again, the fish department guy was full of sage advice:
But the ick did not take Flipper; no sir!
Flipper lived through the entire summer. I gave my mom clear instructions on how to take care of him once I returned to school, and she reluctantly agreed.
… and then, about a week before I was supposed to get on the plane, Flipper died.
And I was characteristically emotional.